Cannabis Cultivars: Indica vs Sativa vs Hybrid

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If you’ve done research on cannabis or visited a dispensary, you’ve probably come across the words Indica, Sativa, and Hybrid.  These cannabis cultivars, or cannabis strains, are varieties of the cannabis plant and can have different effects on the body and mind. And while the term “strains” is commonly used to refer to these varying types of cultivars, it can be inaccurate. Therefore, understanding why the distinction matters can help you make more informed choices and identify which cannabis products are best for you. So let’s start exploring Indica vs. Sativa vs. Hybrid cultivars, where they come from, and how they differ!

What are Cannabis Cultivars?

Cultivar, short for “cultivated variety,” is a botanical term that describes plants cultivated with specific desirable characteristics. Cultivars vary in flavor profiles, cannabinoid strength, appearance, scent, and effects. They result from hundreds of years of cross-breeding of the cannabis plant and can be hybrid strains (intentional or not) or picked from the wild and brought under cultivation. Either way, they must be distinct enough to warrant being named.

Cultivar vs. Strain

Assigning designated names to specific cultivars helps introduce consistency into the sometimes overwhelming and confusing world of cannabis consumption. 

On the other hand, a strain is typically used in virology or microbiology to refer to a genetic subtype of a microorganism. While the term can be used to describe plants occasionally, it’s usually in the context of breeding, relating to genetic modification. For example, if the genetic makeup of a corn plant is changed, its offspring may be considered a strain.

Although cannabis plants can be categorized as strains by providing distinct effects, it’s a less comprehensive classification. Strain classifications tend to only focus on THC and CBD levels, overlooking other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids that contribute to the multilayered effects that cannabis products offer.

So, while “strain” is not the most accurate terminology for different types of cannabis plants, it’s the classification used most often in cannabis culture and dispensaries. So, to understand cannabis cultivars, we may term them “cannabis strains” in this piece (but don’t forget their more accurate botanical name!).

Now that you understand the differences between these two terms let’s dive deeper into exploring cannabis cultivars.

Indica vs. Sativa vs. Hybrid

As far back as the 18th century, scientists proposed two species of marijuana plants: Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica plants. Today, genetically pure Sativa and Indica strains are rare to come by. Due to widespread crossbreeding, most strains available to consumers are, therefore, hybrid strains to some extent.

Modern Sativa strains are essentially Sativa-dominant or Sativa-leaning hybrid strains, Indica strains are Indica-leaning or Indica-dominant strains, while Hybrid strains contain both in varying proportions.

Let’s learn more about these cultivars and what makes them unique.

Cannabis Sativa

Cannabis Sativa grows best in sunny, tropical areas like South and Central America, Southeast Asia, and Africa. Sativas are tall, slender plants with narrow leaflets. They grow to heights of up to 20 feet and have a longer flowering cycle than other cannabis varieties.

Sativa strains contain more THC than CBD and are associated with an uplifting high that can provide users with a burst of energy and inspiration. Common terpenes found in popular Sativa strains include myrcene, limonene, caryophyllene, and pinene. While the aromas of Sativa products can differ by cultivar, they often have sweet, floral, sour, pine or fruity scents.

Since Sativas tend to produce an energetic high, you’ll find that these cannabis strains are typically named after words like “power,” “rush,” or “diesel.”


  • Energizing: Many people opt for sativa strains during the day because of their ability to promote energy. They are also popular among those preparing for social events or physical activities.
  • Increasing focus: Many individuals report that Sativa strains help them concentrate on specific tasks and ignore distractions. They also note that the strain helps them meditate and reflect inward.
  • Uplifting: Some users find that their attitude improves after smoking a sativa strain.
  • Boosting creativity: Sativas sometimes help to unlock creative potential and brainstorming.

Likewise, some report that cannabis sativa products offer relief from the symptoms of:

  • Depression: Some find that sativas can uplift and improve mood.
  • Anxiety: Users report that sativa products can help to relax the mind and reduce stress
  • ADHD: Some people find those sativas ease symptoms of ADHD due to the cerebral and increased focus effects.

If this sounds up your alley, consider the following strains:

  • Tres Leches
  • Golden Goat
  • Super Silver Haze

These are just a few of the many valuable Sativa-dominant cannabis strains we offer, and they’re sure to give you the energized, uplifting high you’re looking for.

Cannabis Indica

Cannabis Indica originated in the cold, dry northern climate of Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, and Turkey. Due to the harsh weather conditions in their homeland, the plants are short, bushy, and dense, growing an average of three to five feet tall. They can be recognized by their broad, dark green leaves. Indica plants have a shorter life span than Sativa plants, meaning they grow and mature quickly.

Indica strains tend to have higher concentrations of CBD (approximately 1 to 18%) and are known for their calming properties. Because Indica products create such deep relaxation, people usually take them at night. Not only does Indica provide a ‘body high,’ but it can also assist those who have trouble with pain, insomnia, or nausea.

Common terpenes found in popular Indica strains include pinene, limonene, myrcene, and valencene. The strains tend to have earth aromas which can be skunky, wooden, and sweet. Most Indica strain names pay homage to the plant’s native land of the Hindu Kush mountains.


  • Relaxing: Indica-based products help users relax and unwind after a hectic day.
  • Sedating: Indica strains can help users feel drowsy and sleepy, making them ideal for those with difficulty sleeping.
  • Managing pain: Indica products are reported to help reduce and relieve chronic and acute pains.

Some say that cannabis sativa products help with the following:

  • Insomnia: Those with insomnia and sleep-related disorders often find that Indica products can help them doze off.
  • Stress relief: Because Indicas are so relaxing, they offer stress relief for many users.
  • Muscle spasm alleviation: Some individuals report that the pain-relieving properties of indica strains help to reduce muscle spasms.

So, if you’re looking for an Indica-based product to improve your mood and help you relax, try these popular strains:

  • King Kush
  • Stargazer
  • Sea Star

Enjoy the calming and soothing effects of these strains as you take on the rest of your day.

Hybrid Cultivars

As cannabis use continues to skyrocket in popularity, producers are inventing and growing brand-new cultivars with a combination of parent plants. These strains have been developed through a scientific approach that accentuates desirable traits while eliminating unwanted ones.

Hybrid cultivars can be divided into four categories: 

  • Sativa-dominant
  • Indica-dominant
  • 50/50 Sativa and Indica 
  • Hybrid Autoflower (combining Ruderalis with Sativa, Indica or both)

Hybrid strains don’t have distinct characteristics like a Sativa or Indica-dominant cultivar but provide users with a unique combination of effects. In general, users report that hybrid strains offer an energizing yet calming feeling which can help them tackle tasks and be productive while still being relaxed.

Each Hybrid cultivar has a distinct ratio of cannabinoids. Many Hybrid strains are explicitly designed to increase the THC percentage and give a more potent high. However, you can also find Hybrid cultivars with a more balanced 1:1 CBD and THC percentage ratio, e.g., 12% CBD and 15% THC.

The aroma and flavor profile of a Hybrid strain is also dependent on the dominant parent cultivar. For example, an Indica-dominant Hybrid might have woodier and earthier notes, while a Sativa-dominant may be fruitier and sweeter.

If you’re looking to get the best of both worlds, Hybrid cultivars are the way to go. Give these a go:

Have fun experimenting with the many hybrid cultivars available, there’s no shortage!

Cannabis Ruderalis

Ruderalis is a third type of the Cannabis plant; however, it isn’t popular with users because of its inability to produce potent effects. These plants are highly adaptable and can grow quickly in extreme environments. They’re small, bushy and don’t grow over a foot tall.

Ruderalis typically has low percentages of THC and relatively higher amounts of CBD. However, the quantities may not be enough to show any noticeable effects for recreational or medicinal purposes.


Due to its low potency, Ruderalis has fallen out of favor with users and growers alike. However, some cannabis farmers continue experimenting with Ruderalis by crossbreeding it with Sativa and Indica. They do this to try and incorporate Ruderalis’ most positive attribute, i.e., its rapid growth cycle, into Hybrid strains.

What’s the Right Strain for Me?

Now that you know the different types of cannabis, you may be wondering which one is right for you. Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference and what effects you’re looking for.

Desired Effect

Are you looking to smoke a joint and head for a party where you can dance the night away with your friends? In that case, you should opt for a Sativa product. If you’re looking to curl up in bed, smoke a pre-roll, and listen to some mellow tunes, you should check out an Indica cultivar. Searching for a balanced high with the best of both worlds? Opt for a Hybrid strain with a THC: CBD ratio close to 1:1. 


While the effect of a strain is important, so are the aroma and taste. Sativa cultivars tend to have more floral, fruity and sweet aromas. Indica strains are often earthy, with notes that may remind you of wood or spices. Hybrid strains offer a unique flavor profile as each cultivar has been bred for its specific cannabinoid composition.

However, keep in mind that terpene profiles vary from strain to strain, so the aroma and taste of one Hybrid cultivar may differ from another.

Consumption Purpose

Are you looking for pain relief or something to help improve your creativity and focus? Depending on the consumption purpose, different strains may be more suitable.

Sativa-dominant cannabis products are an excellent choice for creative endeavors such as artwork, music and writing or if you’re looking to energize your day. For those seeking relaxation and stress relief, Indica-dominants are the way to go. If you desire something in between these two extremes, hybrids provide an optimal balance of alertness and calming effects!

So, what type of cannabis should you try? We say: why not all three? Take some time to explore different cultivars, make note of the effects and aroma of each, and get a feel for how it smokes or feels after consuming it. Soon you’ll find the strain that’s just right for you!

Shop the Hello Cannabis Collection

We hope this guide to the different cultivars helped you gain insight into cannabis consumption. With this information, you should be better equipped to make an informed choice when you shop at your favorite cannabis dispensary.

If you still need more details about the effects of different strains or want to discuss your options with a friendly expert, drop by our dispensary in Vista, California. We’re open daily from 9 AM to 9:45 PM and would love to help you achieve your best possible cannabis experience. Or, browse our extensive online menu and opt for convenient curbside pickup at our storefront!

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